and the most prophetic book about reading in our time– The Gutenberg Elegies:
“I believe that what distinguishes us as a species is not our technological prowess, but rather our extraordinary ability to confer meaning on our experience and to search for clues about our purpose from the world around us.”
“Only in the duration state is experience present as meaning. Only in this state are we prepared to consider our lives under what the philosophers used to call ‘the aspect of eternity,’ to question our origins and destinations, and to conceive of ourselves as souls.”
According to Birkerts, what’s been lost in the last quarter-century with humans’ increased technological immersion and surrender-enslavement to computers, tablets, and phones:
“a) a fragmented sense of time and a loss of the so-called duration experience, that depth phenomenon we associate with reveries; b) a reduced attention span and a general impatience with sustained inquiry; c) a shattered faith in institutions and in the explanatory narratives that formerly gave shape to subjective experience; d) a divorce from the past, from a vital sense of history as a cumulative or organic process; e) an estrangement from geographic place and community; and f) an absence of any strong vision of a personal or collective future.”
No one else has stated this mass cultural diminishment better, more clearly, and more profoundly than Birkerts. He understood, more than anyone else in North America how technology would diminish human consciousness and possibilities.